It was an honor to have participated in the 2020 Caribbean Literary Festival and meet so many who share in this narrative, while also discovering the uniqueness of each story. Above is a commemorative magazine of this Festival’s first virtual event—-due to the pandemic. This virtual platform allowed us y to reach more our community in the African diaspora. Click here to read this magazine and find writings by all of us authors participating in the Festival. #califest2020 #CaribbeanStories
As we move through an unexpected experience of the promise of a new year, six months later, the horror is still baffling. I remember how frequently towards the end of 2019 it could be heard that the year 2020 would be an opportunity to let go of toxic political climates and refresh our inner and outer environment...Well, is it too late? Perhaps, the very change we so looked forward to did arrive, just in a necessary chaotic package.
Early this year, frivolous as well as carefully thought out resolutions were blindsided by the impact of a quarantine that instantly changed our priorities worldwide. Every day a new piece of worrisome information triggered our survival brain, that part of us that instinctively leads us to fight, flight or freeze. This manifested in the impulsive panic buying, and ever-changing disinfecting routines that, for many, created more stress than reassurance and tranquility in the knowledge of making safe and healthy choices. Freezing might have been the form of mental, emotional and bodily escape of those who could not relate to the experience of "safer at home" ordinances. I'm referring to countless children and adults who found themselves frighteningly captive in a more intense version of abuse by perpetrators.Yes, trauma, addiction, suicidality...These all increased in this nightmare of a pandemic. Let’s practice compassion with ourselves and others for the wide range of grief experiences. Mourning may happen even in unexpected contexts.
For us clinicians and the wide range of helping professionals, this global crisis has been an extremely challenging process of containing our own pains to be more fully present for the individuals and communities we serve. Although our training equips us to navigate triggers in the presence of clients and patients, this time around has shaken us to the core and called for intensive mutual support. Tragically, for many of us, the pressure to survive and help survive proved to be so heavy that all perspective was lost to the point of fatal self-harm. Others' demise resulted from this deadly virus taking the lives of the very ones they cared for.
Among the dreadful news were also frequent uplifting reports of creativity in community building in lands far and near us. Everything from the "neighborhood DJs" providing music medicine to all from their balconies to hearing about how nature seemed to be regenerating in the absence of humans disrupting its flow, and more good news really offered a lot to reflect on. We had the opportunity to ponder about how to care for each other, ourselves and an earth injured for far too long by our lack of conscious choices. May a greater conscience guide our steps when we rejoin communities on "the other side" of this crisis.
At the same time, some relationships became more life-affirming while others found that the quicksand they avoided by working excessive hours or otherwise coping maladaptively with their conflicts, finally, swallowed them up. This pandemic has truly forced folks to look in the mirror and at each other in ways that kept getting postponed. Here's proof that, if we don't pause deliberately to catch panoramic perspective of things, life will stop us in our tracks at some point. Hopefully, for those who didn't allow themselves a love village before, this inescapable crisis offers the gift of re-connection with self and each other fueled by the healing energy of a loving community.
To discuss the obvious plummeting of the economy and its impact would necessitate endless hours of reflection, especially now that what would have been a return to opening businesses has been disrupted by the rightful outrage caused by more social injustice. The racism suffered, survived and fought against for hundreds of years, once again, brings us to a boiling point, moving our bodies out into the streets to scream in agonizing pain and fury. ENOUGH. There truly are not enough words to fully articulate the layers of pain and the consequences of unattended trauma from one generation to another. Herein may be another part of the necessary chaotic package brought by 2020 for the whole world to unpack and, as my grandmother in her West Indian wisdom would say, "put a stoppage" to this madness! Yes, the oppressor has its own history of inter-generationally transmitted lies and disowned shame to profoundly examine, such that healing can ensue. However, like I tend to say to clients in therapy, are you going to postpone your wellness until someone changes? We must all take responsibility for our healing and support those who are open to listen to others and themselves ever more deeply, with curiosity and commitment to hearing truth. Let us heal.
Global crisis continues to put a magnifying lens on all public health matters that reflect racism. Education about the infinite layers of pain through generations and mental health interventions go hand in hand, and this experience of absorbing history and processing it takes a village. One-on-one and group support can look many ways, and it’s essential to moving through this nightmare of survival into the realm of thriving. Let's be mindful that healing ought not to be attempted in isolation.This global pause has silenced the noise of excess busyness and now allows the body to be heard, as it carries every single narrative of our lives---including ancestral memory. May we all feel supported, while in a compelling position to learn new ways to be with discomfort and deep pain.
So much has happened in six months that feel short and long simultaneously because of all that's happened. What else may we be surprised by in the next half of the year? What can we do in more consciousness of how generations of pain can bring a people to a place of critical mass? There's beauty in chaos, said a wise friend of mine years ago. It takes stepping back to watch it with very open eyes...I believe it every time I see that such profound pain can bring us together in willingness to "face the music", honestly digging into history to mine for our ancestral strengths, compassionately address our own transgressions born from internalizing the oppressors' values, and allow healing to begin for many and continue for those committed to honoring a resilient heritage. May we feel supported in this journey of turning points in world history. Here's to embracing a new time for transformation.
Thankfully, I'm blessed to be married to a wonderfully supportive husband and a loving family, and delicious family of friends. A light in our days has been the birth of our new grandson. Receiving weekly pictures until we can hold him safely past the pandemic gives us hope. Our daughter and her husband have super powers to do this through this storm! This is the sweetness in this journey for us. I'm eternally thankful.
This and more will be reflected in the many community events ahead. I will participate tomorrow in a Caribbean Literary Festival, which will take a look at all topics with mindfulness for the turmoil we're living in right now worldwide. My participation is within a panel named Returning to Native Lands. Visit www.califest.org
Please join me and colleagues on several Zoom conversations about Healing Community starting on Friday, June 12th (Spanish) and June 19th (English). In the meantime, may Spirit keep us all grounded and clear.
Image above: My husband and I contemplating Kara Walker's art installation of slavery history at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.